Insights on the Peace & Security Council – Interaction between the Peace and Security Council and the African Union Commission 

Date | 16 September, 2019

Tomorrow (16 September) the African Union (AU) Peace and  Security  Council  (PSC)  is  expected  to  hold  an  interaction with the AU Commission at 3pm. The Chairperson  of  the  AU  Commission,  Commissioner  for  Peace and Security, the Commissioner for Political Affairs and  the  Commissioner  for  Rural  Economy  and  Agriculture are expected to participate in the interactive discussion.
The  various  departments  of  the  Commission  have  reported and briefed the Council in their respective areas of  expertise.  Tomorrow’s  session  aims  at  assessing  the  current methods of engagement and based on that to identify  ways  of  enhancing  and  systematizing  the  relationship to ensure a more coordinated and regular collaboration between the PSC and AUC.

The  issues  expected  to  be  discussed  during  tomorrow’s  session include the level of effective execution by the AUC of its roles vis‐à‐vis the peace and security agenda of the AU and review of existing methods of interaction between  the  PSC  and  the  AUC.  In  discussing  these  different issues, consideration is given to the various roles of the AUC.

The  AUC  as  the  secretariat  of  the  Union  has  the  responsibility of providing operational support to the PSC.  In  this  respect,  the  roles  of  the  AUC  include preparing  reports,  briefing  notes,  other  working  documents of the PSC and keeping summary records of the  meetings  of  the  PSC,  to  enable  the  PSC  and  its  subsidiary bodies to perform their functions effectively. Similarly, the PSC protocol recognizes the wide range of roles  and  responsibilities  of  the  AUC  under  the  leadership of the AUC Chairperson in terms of conflict prevention,  agenda  setting,  and  following  up  on  the  implementation of the PSC decisions.

In  line  with  the  roles  and  responsibilities  identified  in  article 7 and 10 of the PSC protocol, it would be of interest for the PSC to hear the Chairperson in providing an  assessment  on  how  the  Commission  has  discharged  its responsibilities in these set standards and in providing operational  support  for  the  PSC’s  mandate.  Consideration is also to be had on strengthening the level and quality as well as predictability of interaction in all phases of conflict from prevention, management and post‐conflict  reconstruction  as  appropriate  through  the  AUC Chairperson, Commissioners, the AUC Departments or  the  special  envoys  or  representatives  of  the  AUC  Chairperson.
Another area for discussion during tomorrow’s session is the  role  of  the  various  departments  of  the  AUC.  In  its  retreat held in Swakopmund in 2015 the PSC highlighted the  need  to  work  closely  with  a  number  of  actors  in  order to maintain peace and security in line African Peace  and  Security  Architecture.  Towards  enhancing  conflict prevention, the PSC stressed the need for the department  of  Political  Affairs  to  ‘attend  all  PSC  meetings and provide regular briefings including those focusing on early warning aspects to the PSC’. Similarly, the Council  called on the  AUC to ‘intensify its efforts in  the area of PCRD, including submission of a report as decided  by  the  Council,  on  the  status  of  the  AU  PCRD  architecture’. The Council has also tasked the Commission to regularly report on the operationalization of  both  African  Peace  and  Security  Architecture  (APSA)  and African Governance Architecture (AGA).

Given the complementarity of the Departments of Peace and  Security  (PSD)  and  Political  Affairs  (DPA)  and  the  decision within the framework of the reform of the AU to merge the two departments in 2021, tomorrow’s session is  also  expected  to  discuss  the  measures  being  taken  towards smooth process of consolidating the two departments  and  managing  the  PSC’s  interaction  with  both departments. The two departments may provide an update  on  the  plans  for  the  merger  of  the  two  departments and where the merger process stands.

Tomorrow’s  session  may  also  delve  into  addressing  technical and operational issues. Although the various departments  provide  reports  and  briefing  upon  the  request of the PSC, the interaction may also be critical in ensuring  that  the  engagements  are  not  ad‐hoc  or  reactive. In this regard, an issue for discussion is reviewing  the  working  arrangements  in  terms  of  the  relationship between the PSC and the AUC. These include the role of the AUC in terms of the drafting of the outcome documents of the PSC, in following up with the decisions of the PSC including timely delivery of briefings requested  to  be  delivered  within  a  set  time  frame,  provision of updates on PSC decisions and the predictability in the timely submissions of the reports of the AUC Chairperson. Also significant is the availability of an  effectively  functioning  process  for  sharing  early  warning analysis with the PSC and provision of updates on outcomes of PSC sessions requiring follow up.

In this context the PSC and the Commission may wish to agree  on  preparing  calendar  of  activities  on  delivery  of  time specific briefings, updates on previous decisions and  on  submission  of  reports  of  the  AUC  Chairperson  that could feature in the monthly work plan in addition to  the  other  agenda  items  proposed  by  the  rotating  chairs. This will also be a critical step in ensuring the continuity  of  proper  follow  up  of  decisions  and  to  prevent interruption when monthly chairs rotate. This exercise  may  enable  the  monthly  chairs  of  the  PSC  to  build on decisions and deliberation from previous month and contribute to  their implementation and predictable  working practice of the PSC.

The interaction will also offer the Council to map the in‐house capacity in the Commission and ways to adequately make use of the expertise and knowledge of staff  in  the  Commission  to  ensure  informed  decision‐making process. This will also essential in addressing siloes  and  foster  inter‐departmental  coordination,  information sharing and complementarity. It will also enable  the  PSC  and  Commission  to  utilize  existing  capacity and resources.

In  addition  to  the  responsibilities  of  the  departments,  the role of AU offices located in various African member states may also be discussed. The PSC may also stress the critical role of its Secretariat. The PSC Secretariat has a wide role in not only following up on the decisions of the Council but also in arranging the  meetings  of  the  PSC,  preparing  the  working  documents, and keeping records of PSC meetings. By tapping  into  the  vast  expertise  in  the  Commission  and  various offices of the AU, the Secretariat also helps in enabling  the  PSC  to  receive  the  technical  inputs  that  boost the decision‐making process. The Secretariat is in key  position  in  bridging  the  information  sharing  and  coordination mechanism between the Council with departments  in  the  Commission  including  those  participating in tomorrow’s session.

In  this  regard  and  recognizing  the  expanding  role  and  responsibilities of its Secretariat, the PSC may wish to propose  ways  of  enhancing  its  capacity.  The  secretariat  has been coordinating the activities of the Council and the  operationalization  of  the  ambitious  mandate  of  the  Council with limited capacity.

The  expected  outcome  is  a  communiqué.  The  PSC  may  commend the Commission for its efforts in supporting the  mandate  of  the  Council.  It  may  call  on  the  Commission to support continuous collaboration through reporting  and  regular  briefing  by  departments.  It  may  identify calendar of activities that will ensure predictable interaction, bring continuity in the work of the PSC and foster cooperative and more institutionalized interaction with the Commission. It may also highlight on the need to enhance the capacity of its secretariat. In the light of the impending merger of the PSD and DPA, the PSC could request the AUC to present to it a report on the plan and timelines for the merger. It is also expected to decide on having a regular interactive session with the Commission to  follow  up  on  tomorrow’s  session  and  institutionalize  the assessment of the working relationship between the two.